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Victims apparently tried to put fire out

Firefighters are responding extra-alarm fire high-rise building South Shore neighborhood. The fire is high-rise building 6730 S. South Shore Drive

Firefighters are responding to a extra-alarm fire in a high-rise building in the South Shore neighborhood. The fire is at a high-rise building at 6730 S. South Shore Drive, Fire Media Affairs said. The blaze has been upgraded to a 3-11 alarm and an EMS Plan 2, which sends at least 10 ambulances to the scene, Fire Media Affairs said. | Courtesy ABC7

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Updated: February 25, 2013 12:38PM

When the men heard the cries of an elderly woman inside her home on the seventh floor of a South Shore high-rise where a fire broke out Tuesday morning, police said the pair helped her out into the hallway and put her on an elevator.

But instead of joining the 81-year-old woman in her escape from the three-alarm blaze at 6730 S. South Shore Drive, police said Jameel Johnson and John Fasula Jr. pushed the elevator button for the ground floor and returned to her home with fire extinguishers.

Officials said the two men didn’t live in the building. They were working. And the smoke overcame them as they apparently tried to stop the fire. Chicago Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford said they were found in the hallway outside the woman’s apartment. One man was face up. The other was face down.

Each was pronounced dead at a hospital. Johnson was taken to University of Chicago Medical Center and Fasulo was taken to Jackson Park Hospital.

But when the elevator doors opened in the building’s lobby, Langford said, the woman sent to the ground floor by the two men fell out, suffering from a heart attack. She was taken to the University of Chicago. If she survives, Langford said the men might have saved her life.

“If they did that,” Langford said, “that was a life-saving move.”

The fire appears to have started in a bedroom, Langford said. The cause remained undetermined Wednesday, he said, pending forensic analysis of electrical equipment.

“We don’t have the resources to do that right now,” Langford said.

Johnson’s family couldn’t be reached Tuesday. But those who knew Fasula — including Cook County Commissioner John Daley — said they weren’t surprised to hear the 50-year-old from Bridgeport might have died saving the woman’s life. Daley said Fasula was a family man always ready to help anyone in need.

Fasula left behind a wife, Patty, and two children — Marissa, 25, and John, 24.

“There’s not going to be another one like him ever again in this lifetime,” said sister-in-law Michelle Kozicki.

Fasula was a manager of system maintenance for the Chicago Transit Authority. Lambrini Lukidis, a spokeswoman for the agency, said Fasula worked there since 1983 and had the day off Tuesday.

Police said he and Johnson were working for a satellite company at the time of the fire, but Fasula’s family said he was giving an estimate for a remodeling job and didn’t know Johnson. Michael Rutkowski, president of First Community Management, said neither the management company nor the building association hired the men, and it wasn’t clear who did.

Two of the building’s units were destroyed by the fire, Rutkowski said, and he said the city is keeping residents out of about eight more. The building didn’t have sprinklers because it was built before 1975. A city building official has said a plan to upgrade the building was approved in May 2010, but the upgrades aren’t required until January 2015.

Chicago permanently banned Fasula’s wife and her now-defunct trucking company from working for the city after she was accused of filing false documents to convince officials that she — not her husband — owned and operated the company, one of several women-owned businesses in the city’s scandal-plagued Hired Truck Program.

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